Bees are dying in droves. Why?

Leading apiarist Dennis vanEngelsdorp looks at the gentle, misunderstood creature’s important place in nature and the mystery behind its alarming disappearance


Dennis vanEngelsdorp is Acting State Apiarist for Pennsylvania's Department of Agriculture, studying colony collapse disorder — the alarming, worldwide disappearance of worker bees and Western honey bees.

Why you should listen

"Imagine if one of every three cows died. The National Guard would be out." It's a grim premise, but a favorite of Dennis vanEngelsdorp, who in 2008 watched the same percentage of bees vanish in North America. A leading apiarist, vanEngelsdorp knows the disturbing consequences of the bee die-off. Colony collapse disorder (its official name) is complex and mysterious, driven by pesticides, toxins and disease, and threatens not only the existence of the insect but also the food they pollinate -- a third of what we eat.

But vanEngelsdorp is not a pessimist, however worrisome the situation. Since finding his love for bees in an undergraduate beekeeping course, he's steadily chewed through new degree programs, becoming an outspoken bee crusader, generating global buzz -- sorry -- for the fascinating critters: their workers' dance, their convenient chronic case of static cling ...

To fight recent losses, he's now advocating urban beekeeping and honeymaking (sadly, illegal in some cities), drive-by-night repopulation programs, and emergency queen bee delivery by express mail (legal -- really).